Kentucky Derby: It’s ‘Game On’ for Confidence Game

Kentucky Derby: It’s ‘Game On’ for Confidence Game

Mattress Mack has an awesome promo where if the Kentucky Derby favorite wins you get your furniture free. Check out the flyer below then let’s look at one of the contenders:

Kentucky Derby (G1) contender’s final workout often gives a “tell” as to how live they might be on the First Saturday in May. Some are legendary.

In 1973 Secretariat worked 1:12 and change in the mud a few days before his Derby run. Sunday Silence had trainer Charlie Whittingham doing a little jig at the barn after he blew out in :46 and change for a half-mile in 1989. Perhaps 2023’s moment came this morning when the Keith Desormeaux-trained Confidence Game fired a bullet :59 flat workout for five furlongs under the Twin Spires. Regular rider James Graham was aboard for the move.

Desormeaux watched the work from the clocker’s stand on the backside at Churchill Downs. It’s hard to see much from there. Most trainers zip over to the frontside to watch works from the elevated grandstand.

“Between the infield video board and barricades…you can’t see shit,” the trainer said. “But he jogged off nice and he looked very fluid. The work looked good. He was beautiful coming through here (the portion he could see down the backstretch). Nice, big, sound, fluid action; on the bit but relaxed and that’s all I know. I lost him at the three-eighths pole. I’ll get a video later. 

“According to James, he had plenty of horse all the way. I hear he went in :59 and change and the gallop out was strong. He’s ready. James said he was really strong, so he let him out a little early, which is no problem.”

Desormeaux followed his horse back to Barn 24 and then took out another set of horses to work over the main track. He found a gaggle of media awaiting upon his return.

“I need a new jock,” he shouted to the mob. “Anybody got a rider? This guy doesn’t know how to judge pace.”

It’s easy to be loose and get laughs after your horse leaves a vapor trail on the track a week before the Run for the Roses. 

The majority of Derby hopefuls were slated to drill Friday (April 28). Trainers, punching the refresh button on their apps throughout the week, saw the skies open on Thursday in Louisville. The rains left the main track a gooey mess Friday morning and horsemen backed off a day. The morning training hours at Churchill for Derby and Oaks horses is from 7:30-7:45 a.m. This morning was a very busy day for the clocking team. Here are the recorded works:

Angel of Empire: 1:01 2/5 for five furlongs

Confidence Game :59, five furlongs, galloping out six panels in 1:13 2/5

Cyclone Mischief 1:00 4/5, five furlongs

Forte :49 4/5, half mile

Hit Show :59 3/5, five furlongs

Jace’s Road 1:01 1/5, five furlongs

Kingsbarn and Major Dude worked in company :48 2/5, a half mile

Mage 1:16 4/5, six furlongs

Tapit Trice 1:00 3/5, five furlongs

Verifying :59 2/5, five furlongs

Desormeaux, the brother of Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, is taking an extremely unconventional path to this year’s Derby with Don’t Tell My Wife Stables’ Confidence Game. The colt’s last start was an off-the-pace score in the Feb. 25 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park, meaning he’s attempting to win the Derby off a 10-week layoff. That’s never been accomplished before in the modern era (Regret won the 1915 Derby in her seasonal debut). Barbaro broke the mold in 2006 when he landed the Run for the Roses off a five-week break.

Desormeaux has kept Confidence Game at Churchill Downs since the Rebel, passing on other prep races. He worked the colt a mile out of the starting gate April 14 in 1:38 1/5, a pure “old school” move. 

“That’s why I chose not to run,” Desormeaux said of the mile move. “I wanted to get to the bottom of him that day. The two works were totally different. Today’s was totally maintenance … let him be happy; stretch his lungs out … and mission accomplished. 

The move this morning tightened the screws.

“Fitness is a non-issue, and mainly just because he’s not a big, heavy, rangey, weight-carrying horse,” the trainer said. “He keeps his weight, but he doesn’t pack on weight. James and I thought he’d go in a minute or 1:01 today, and he went in :59. He puts so much into his works that a race was totally unnecessary. Plus, he’s had seven races and five at a route, so the lack of racing in the last 10 weeks is a non-issue. In fact, it’s a benefit because he’s going to be fresh.”

The son of top sire Candy Ride, Confidence Game is out of Eblouissante (by Bernardini). Eblouissante is a half-sister to mighty Zenyatta. Desormeaux purchased Confidence Game for a mere $25,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Desormeaux, with 780 career wins, has run three horses in the Kentucky Derby. 

He brought Exaggerator, a $110,000 yearling purchase, to the 2016 running and ran second behind Nyquist. Two weeks later, Exaggerator won the Preakness Stakes (G1) and later the grade 1 Haskell Invitational Stakes. Desormeaux’s other Derby starters are Sonneteer, who finished 11th in 2107, and My Boy Jack, the fifth-place finisher in 2018.

Graham has had two Derby mounts. He was aboard Lone Sailor in 2018 (18th) and Major Fed in 2020 (10th). Confidence Game will be his best shot to date.

I’d say their confidence is growing on the backside of Churchill Downs.

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